Although I identify as a cisgender woman, the transgender and gender non-conforming community is a community that I am personally and professionally committed to advocate for. I will never understand what it means to be transgender, I can only strive to continue to learn and grow as an ally. According to GLAAD, 2023, Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDOR) is an annual day of observance held on November 20th that honors the names and memory of the transgender individuals who lost their lives due to acts of anti-transgender violence. Transgender Day of Remembrance began in 1999 by a transgender advocate named Gwendolyn Ann Smith, as a way for Gwendolyn to honor the memory of Rita Hester, a transgender woman who was killed in 1998. The vigil honored all transgender people who lost their lives to violence since Rita Hester’s death and began the meaningful and somber tradition of the annual Transgender Day of Remembrance. On this day, we hold space for the way in which innocent lives were taken due to violence and hate, and we also remember the lives lived and imprint their memories have on all of us.
In considering the evolution over the years of the rights, inclusion, representation, and advocacy for transgender individuals and gender non-conforming individuals, there has certainly been progress made compared to previous years. However, we have a long way to go. There have been incredibly painful and unjust setbacks and anti-transgender legislation that has been actively negatively affecting transgender youth, adults, and the community as a whole. In 2023 alone, 85 anti-trans bills have passed out of the 583 proposed bills throughout the United States. (2023 Anti-Trans Bills: Trans Legislation Tracker, 2023). Oklahoma Senate Bill129 is one example; this bill states that in Oklahoma there will now be “felony charges for providing gender-affirming care to people under 26 years as well as immediate revocation of the license or certificate of the physician or other healthcare provider (Milestone Act of 2023, 2023).” Bills such as these restrict access to medically necessary healthcare for individuals who meet criteria for gender dysphoria. Additionally, these bills actively contradict a plethora of medical organization’s professional support and understanding of the need to provide individuals diagnosed with gender dysphoria gender-affirming care (which doesn’t always include medical and/or surgical intervention). Some of the organizations who have publicly voiced the unjust nature of banning gender-affirming healthcare include the American Psychological Association, American Medical Association, and the Pediatric Endocrine Society (GLAAD, 2021).
It can certainly be tough to hold the weight of it all, especially when what we are trying to hold is so deeply personal and yet is treated as political. At times it is surreal to feel both hopeful and disappointed. To be proud and also fearful. So, how do we push forward as allies, advocates, and individuals committed to supporting and empowering our transgender and gender non-conforming children, colleagues, friends, family, and community members? If these sentiments give you a familiar feeling, it may be because we have been here before in recognizing how unjust policies can drive hate and prejudice for our loved ones of color. This why it is no longer enough to be neutral, we have shifted our language to being anti-racist which implies being against racism and stepping into a more action-oriented stance. We cannot remain passive for our transgender and gender non-conforming community members and loved ones. Here too, we must act.
Here are a few ways we can show up for our transgender brothers and sisters every day:
Do the work! We can all take an active role in educating ourselves, examining existing research, listening to individual stories and experiences, and learning more about terminology. We can also exercise our voices in the polls! This can look like doing thorough research on local, state, and federal candidates, and showing up in the voting booths promoting inclusive policies. The responsibility is on us (cisgender allies) to continue to learn and grow so that we can support our transgender and gender non-conforming loved ones without shifting the responsibility onto them to get us up to speed.
Step outside of your safe space and into a brave space. A lot of us may have worries or fears of saying or doing the “wrong” thing that it can limit us from saying or doing anything! I encourage all of us (me included) to lean into the discomfort and vulnerability that comes with being brave and trying our best (embrace your inner Brené Brown, if you will).
When you see or hear transphobia, name it. It is important to address these words and actions in the moment and hold folks accountable (this applies to ourselves as well). Words and actions matter. In the name of being aware of the importance and weight of our words, it is imperative when calling out transphobia to be mindful of how you are addressing it. Consider things like, what is my objective is saying this? How can I say this so it could be heard? Is it possible to say this in a way that fosters a dialogue around this? Ultimately, we are only able to exercise control over our own thoughts and actions. So, if anything, think about your personal core values and how you would like your words and actions to reflect those values.
Celebrate and honor the resilience and beauty within the transgender and gender non-conforming community. There are so many portrayals in the media focusing on the vulnerabilities and risks associated with our trans and gender non confirming community members, and though it is important to be aware of the mistreatment and systemic ways in which trans and gender non-conforming individuals are marginalized and at disproportionately higher rates than their cisgender peers for things like housing instability, employment discrimination, and hate crimes (Glick et al., 2020), that is not the entirety of who they are. These are people. People who love and laugh. People who are parents, siblings, children, friends, and partners. These are individuals will full lives and who deserve to be seen for the whole of their personhood.
What are some ways that we can honor and celebrate on Transgender Day of Remembrance?
Search for any candlelight vigils/marches in your area
Attend discussion forums with your local community members
Attend or host a poetry reading or spoken word event featuring the voices of transgender and gender non-conforming poets
Watch a movie or documentary featuring transgender and gender non-conforming characters or individuals
Attend a training related to learning more about ways to participate and actively support the transgender and gender non-conforming community
2023 Anti-Trans Bills: Trans Legislation Tracker. (2023)
GLAAD. (2021, April 19). Medical Association Statements Supporting Trans Youth Healthcare and Against Discriminatory Bills - GLAAD. Glaad.org. https://glaad.org/medical-association-statements-supporting-trans-youth-healthcare-and-against-discriminatory/
GLAAD. (2023, June 9). Glaad.org. https://glaad.org/
Glick, J. L., Lopez, A., Pollock, M., & Theall, K. P. (2020). Housing insecurity and intersecting social determinants of health among transgender people in the USA: A targeted ethnography. International Journal of Transgender Health, 21(3), 337–349. https://doi.org/10.1080/26895269.2020.1780661
Milestone Act of 2023, Oklahoma Senate Bill 129, 59th Cong. (2023). https://www.alverno.edu/media/alvernocollege/library/pdfs/apa7bill.pdf